RESTON, Va.—The Tire Association of North America has initiated efforts to develop a set of skill standards for jobs in the tire industry. TANA said the standards ``will be the basis for future TANA certification programs and will help raise the standards of professionalism in the industry.''
``We're attempting to create a program so standardized and so readily available that the vast majority of tire dealers simply wouldn't have anybody on payroll who hadn't gone through the basic course,'' said Gary Petty, TANA senior vice president.
TANA will solicit the information, he said, from tire industry sources whose opinions ``represent a cross-section of the industry.''
A portion of an April 19-20 meeting in Chicago of TANA's training committee was devoted to an informal discussion of ideas on training and certification with representatives of tire manufacturing, retail and professional associations.
``They were looking for input on the state of training in the tire industry as a whole,'' said Terry Westhafer, president of Central Tire Corp. in Verona, Va., who attended the meeting. He is a member of the International Tire and Rubber Association's board and is on ITRA's training committee.
Mr. Westhafer said he personally thinks any program of industry standards ``is going to be a broader-based effort than just TANA.''
Mr. Petty said the meeting was an ``off the record'' opportunity to solicit views on training and certification. TANA has had discussions with the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) about a joint certification program. But he said ``ASE concluded that tire technician skills were not comparable'' to the other technical skills programs it has in place.
So TANA will attempt to develop its own certification programs to help dealers hire and retain quality employees. The association already offers training through publications, videotapes and its Web site, www.tana.net.
It plans to use a survey model provided by the Washington, D.C.-based National Retail Foundation, which promotes the retail industry.
``I'd like to see the day come when we have patches that say, `TANA-trained','' said TANA President Jim Shook, who pledged to make training and certification a top priority when he assumed the presidency last November.
``I hope when we get the thing through, it's a program that benefits all dealers—big or small,'' Mr. Shook said, noting dealers he's met around the country are ``excited about training.''
He expects it will take TANA about three years to implement a comprehensive program that could take one to two years for an employee to complete in graduated steps—from tire buster up to off-the-road service technician.
Mr. Petty said if such a program is in place, independent dealers might be able to qualify for available state and federal job training grants for employee training based on a standardized set of skills used industry-wide.
Another advantage of a training and certification program cited by both he and Mr. Shook could be reduced insurance costs for dealers.
Mr. Shook said one of his employees was seriously injured several years ago in a shop accident, causing his workers compensation insurance premiums to double for the next three or four years.
It's been his experience that ``people who get hurt are untrained.''
During the Chicago meeting, Mr. Westhafer said, there was a lot of discussion about ``the legal ramifications of industry standards vs. industry recommended practices.''
``Manufacturers are not comfortable with standards, per se,'' said Mr. Petty, suggesting any guidelines be more like a set of recommended procedures.